The day dawned. Story wise it seems fitting for that to be the beginning, but I didn’t have to get up till after 7, some time after summer’s dawn, though time flew from 5.30 to 7. One false alarm, as the German rower’s alarm went off at 7 as she’d promised in conversation last night, and I was up at 7.20. The walk to the station was lovely with the sun glinting off the river and sparse Sunday traffic moving through the city.
First trip a short one, half an hour to Malmo, though that does involve going over the sea bridge which is pretty cool. It’s a long old bridge. On the Swedish side was the sad sight of a boat on its side, though it looked otherwise in good condition. A quick change and I was on the 9.18 to Stockholm, due to arrive after 2pm. It started to occur to me what large distances in covering; already I’ve gone from England-France-Belgium-Germany-Holland- Germany-Denmark-Sweden.
The train was a wide, very comfortable, wooden trimmed thing, and as I was in the last carriage I spotted that you could look out the back and watch the tracks disappearing. Not sure I’ve ever done that before. I thought I’d be disconnected for the day but no, wifi on train and ferry, all free. The train allows a gb free in a month before it starts charging, though it is possible that with a seat backing on to first class I was picking up their perk. We arrived in Stockholm on time and I, having convinced myself it was easy enough, walked to the ferry port. It’s a couple of km, maybe a bit more, and you stroll through the bustling pedestrian area of Gamla Stan before heading left the other side. My shoulders felt it a little, especially as once you reach the port you have to walk the length of it to get to the passenger terminal, but given that it is 30sek to take the metro to Slussen then walk the last km, or 70 for the bus direct from station to port, I reckon I’d saved myself the hassle of lugging my stuff down into the metro and saved the cost of the bus. Plus I only had 20sek and was going straight through Sweden. Passing the port you see cars queuing to drive on and nearer the terminal, a flock of people in red and yellow t shirts. Cleaning staff, I reckoned, like a private army temporarily at ease before action.
Nearer the port a sign asks ‘tourists’ to follow he blue line. What could come more naturally to a runner? I was even temporarily annoyed that a couple coming toward me were on the line, but walking next to it isn’t really a problem. I took the line thereafter, obviously. The queues for check in looked long, but the longer lines were for the huge ship Cinderella that had just pulled in, and I had my ticket/pass/cabin key within minutes. The shared cabins are in the bowels of the ship but nice enough. It’s not expensive, though I have spotted one bloke with his seat and backpack, checking for a good spot on deck. He’s also on his second beer half an hour into he journey-if the plan is to spend what he saved on a cabin on beer he may not have many more to go.
Once we moved off my curiosity at whether I’d have the cabin to myself was too great and I took myself downstairs, and that way met Andy, the Aussie who lives in Helsinki, and Kendo, the Japanese who is visiting there en route to London. Social hour was good, and enough for me so I emerged from the below water line cabin to take in the sights of the Stockholm delta (subs please check it is a delta. And let me know what one is) while there was still sun.
There are plenty of decks to see. 7 has shopping-if the on board restaurants seem expensive, the duty free restaurant will do you a sandwich for €2.60, cider for €1.50 and chocolate for cheap. 8 has restaurants and a bar-the programme of entertainment had got to disco time for the young, which seemed to involve girls dancing together. A distinctly Little Miss Sunshine vibe, not a place for a single man to hang about. Not this one, anyway. 9 has the sun deck, dj and all, but round the corner places to lounge about, with no sound escaping the plastic/glass barriers in place. 10 lets you walk about and you can go up to the wide open space of 11 if you like, make the most of the sun’s rays and spot the helicopter pad. I passed time reading and eating, though I passed on the shop’s Pussi portion and Goteborg rape.
As time went on I spotted a few more youths without cabins who were changing position to a kid boredom, looking like they were lapping the ship with all their worldly goods. The English posh boys would have been sad to see them, their youth giving the lie to the idea that the poshos are ‘a bit young’ to spend three weeks in Europe. I suspect they’ll stay ill informed giving undue credence to what posh dad told them, rather than learn that the rest of Europe is getting on with life rather ahead of them. It reminds me of my own daftness in Ireland, wondering if cycling (about 3k) on a more major road Han previously would be a pain, only to spot first two 10-12 year olds on their bike on he other side, veering across the road talking as kids do, and then steering around two younger girls walking along the road (no pavements).
The delta, or whatever, fascinated me. Lots of little islands, some that might have been a few hundred metres round with a house on. Only accessible by boat, would I like that remoteness? I suspect they may be summer homes but still. Most of all, where would you run? As the sun sunk towards the horizon we were finally emerging from the islands, the last of them slipping by as things going past on a ship are contractually bound to be described, and were into the open sea. A younger man would be heading for the disco.
Though immediately I’ve written that I look to my right and find, as life refuses to conform to my script, the younger men in sight, two significantly younger men, in fact, are sitting with their packs, one looking out to sea, the other reading a book. Their relaxed approach gives me quite the warm glow inside. I dare say that when they speak the German words come out naturally, too. “Battray”, indeed. On the clubbing front, though it is too early to write them off as non participants. I daresay they’ll be up later than me, and it is only 20:45.
I caught: 8.32 Copenhagen to Malmo, are 9.06, 9.18 Malmo to Stockholm, arr 2.38, 4.30 Viking line to Helsinki.
Reading: Cyclist, WSC (brilliant this month, any football fan should have a copy; particularly loved the 1973 story of Oxbarn Social, from the Wolverhampton 7th div who visited Mainz, thought it would be nice to play a game out there, arranged it with the mayor then ‘thought it was posh’ when they turned up to find people queuing to get in and a team on an £80 bonus to win. Probably not expected to pay out, given SVW Mainz were 3rd div and the mighty Wolves a powerhouse, but they could take on a sunday league side and win 20/21-0, depending who you believe (German accounts go for the lower score). Zimler, The Warsaw Anagrams – interesting book found some time after the author’s death. With ghosts and so on the atmosphere is odd enough that I misread ‘failed to see a puddle in time’ and expected him to be in a new century, rather than a little wet.